Category Archives: Places

The Zen of sketching


Fiona's legs

Fiona’s legs

I had a very enjoyable visit to my blogging friend Eleanor at KnitNell today and I was so taken with her post “I wish I could draw….” Part 2 that I decided to do my own little piece on the same subject. Eleanor gives a whole series of pointers in starting to sketch and I would agree with every one of them.

Let me just make it clear that I haven’t done any sketching for a few years now but reading her article brought back to me how much joy sketching can bring and all the angst that comes up when you talk to people about drawing. I have heard it countless times and to be honest I used to say the same things myself….. “I don’t have the talent”, “you’re either born with it or you’re not” “I can only draw stick people” etc. etc. The truth is that while there are those who have natural talent and need no coaching in how to create wonderful pieces of art, the vast majority of us need a bit more help and encouragement.

The first revelation I learned (in my 30’s) was that sketching is a skill and it can be learned! How exciting. As my teacher said: “you weren’t born knowing how to drive a car – it was a skill that was taught to you and it was only after much practice that you got good at it”. I still wasn’t convinced of course and I think that that was largely due to the internal critic playing in my head. You know the one that says things like: “well thats a load of rubbish isn’t it?” “You’re never going to get any better at this – might as well give up” etc. etc. At this point most of us will give up – hide our shameful attempts from view and avoid ridicule from others at all costs.

Pine cone

Pine cone

This is the point where the right teacher or creative confidante can make all the difference. Someone who you can trust enough to share your artistic endeavours without fear of judgement or ridicule. Someone who will give words of encouragement and honest feedback (notice I don’t use the word praise here because whilst we all enjoy a bit of praise there isn’t much to be gained from someone giving you “oh its lovely” all the time).

I am sharing some sketches from my sketchbook from several years ago in the hope that you will see perfection is not the aim! Rather, it is about making marks on paper that have meaning to you, no one else. Marks on paper can not be deemed ‘good’ or ‘bad’ they are simply marks (very zen I know).

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Another very ‘zen’ thing about sketching is the meditative state you enter into – this is probably the thing I miss most about it: the losing sense of time and yet being wholly present and soaking up the sights, sounds, smells so that forever more when you look at that sketch, everything about that time will come back to you in an instant.

The sketch (left) was of a little boy playing on the beach at Ricketts Point in January 2004 – when I look at it I can still remember it like it was yesterday. I am pretty certain that a photo of the same scene would not give me the same emotional connection.

The other great thing about a sketchbook is doodling. Whatever craft you are into, doodling is a fantastic way to keep new ideas rolling and Laurie at Inbox Jaunt makes absolutely brilliant use of her doodles in her quilting designs.

A bit of doodling never hurt anyone!

A bit of doodling never hurt anyone!

Another fun exercise (particularly if you’re not in the mood for taking the sketchbook out) is to take a photo from a magazine (see below) and extend it either with pencil or paint – in other words just have some fun and make your mark!

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I would love to hear what you’re own experiences are with sketching and whether or not you have ever been daunted by the blank page.

Weekly photo challenge: Culture


I don’t usually do the weekly photo challenge and I have an awful feeling I may be a day late in submitting but oh well I thought it would be a good excuse to share some of the shots we took in China in 2011. It really was a bit of a culture shock, mainly because none of us could speak or read Chinese and we found that very few people could speak English so our miming skills picked up enormously! Also travelling anywhere with two teenagers (unable to access Facebook) who would rather be anywhere else in the world than with their parents is a joy that is hard to put into words!




Looking for inspiration or…..where has my mojo gone?


What can be more inspirational than cake!

What can be more inspirational than cake!

Well its a mighty good question and one I don’t suppose I’m alone in asking from time to time. Sometimes with the best will in the world, it just doesn’t happen. Sometimes its the things going on around you that just sap your creative juices.

I could probably blame it a bit on the weather as here in Melbourne we have had a couple of weeks where the temperature has been hovering around the mid 30s (Centigrade) and that makes me feel about as energetic as a limp lettuce!

However, the other day something did jolt me slightly out of my lethargy – another award!! (I really don’t feel at all deserving but anyway it gave me a big boost for the day) and here it is:


Yes I know I got the same one recently but I thought I wouldn’t get into too much trouble if I displayed the award again!

The nomination came from Carol at Life on a Dirt Road whose blog I really enjoy reading partly because I have always wondered what it would be like to live up a dirt road and away from city conveniences and also because she makes lots of lovely quilts and she makes me laugh. She also blogs in her PJs and drinks tea so she’s got a lot going for her! – go check her out.

As I haven’t been doing a lot of crafting just lately I thought I would share some photos with you as I believe its important to feed your creativity in those parched times. I got this idea several years ago when I read a book by Julia Cameron called “The Artists Way”. It is an absolutely brilliant book for anyone interested in living creatively and one of the exercises she recommends is making an artist “date” with yourself every week. Now this can be anything that inspires you whether it be a trip to the local fabric shop or a walk round an art gallery (basically anything that feeds your creative soul).

I went to Camberwell Market last week and also had a morning in the city so here were some things that inspired me:

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Some interesting stamps

Some interesting stamps

Vintage lace

Vintage lace

...and teapots!

…and teapots!

Embroidered tablecloth

Embroidered tablecloth

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I was very happy with my $6 tablecloth which I think is so pretty. It is quite stained but I feel like plans are starting to stir within… and thats a really good feeling … keep you posted.

Mad COWS day out!


Mill Rose Quilting
There’s nothing like a fun day out with the girls and that’s exactly what we did last Saturday even though it was a bit on the hot side (about 38C which is probably well up in the 90’s in Fahrenheit). There were 10 of us in two cars and we were making our way up to Ballarat which is about 2 hours north from our part of Melbourne. Our first stop was in Ballan which is a great spot and really worth a visit if you get the chance. Mill Rose Quilting and Gallery was just beautifully laid out and we really enjoyed looking at all their gorgeous fabric and patterns.
Stunning array of fabric
I hear rumour that they are starting a bed and breakfast so will definitely be keeping that one in mind for a weekend retreat!

We also dropped into the farmers market in Ballan and enjoyed looking at all the lovely produce and couldn’t resist buying some of their crusty bread, of which we were given many tastings. We were a bit tempted by the cheese too but I think we quickly realised it would be a big and smelly mistake on such a hot day!

Ballan farmers market

After Ballan, we took off up to Ballarat and visited Eureka Patchwork and Ballarat Patchwork and stopped at a wonderful place for lunch (we were ready to chew an arm off by this stage)! Its called Wen and Ware and is a fabulous gift shop and delicious lunch stop. Even managed to do a bit of Christmas shopping – for me!! All in all a very successful day and quite ready to collapse in a heap when I got home. Luckily himself had got the new pizza oven fired up and we had our very first wood-fired pizzas – YUM!
Boys keen to help with inaugural pizza

The Red House – Home of William Morris


Another place I should have known about – it was on my doorstep for so many years but has taken me until now as a returning tourist to finally see. The Red House was commissioned and lived in by William Morris in the 1860’s. He was founder of the Arts & Crafts movement in Victorian England and well known for the wonderful designs that we are so familiar with today (particularly fabric and wallpaper). He and his fellow artists were very fond of all things medieval and helped to bring about a gothic revival in architecture. As you can see by the photo of his house it has a very gothic look to it:

The Red House – half an hour from the centre of London

Part of the garden

Morris married the young artists model Jane Burden who caused more than a bit of a stir in Victorian England by not wearing corsets! Jane was from very humble beginnings, her father being a groomsman but she was a great beauty and a favourite muse for the group of artists Morris associated with and Jane was seen as the perfect example of pre-Raphaelite beauty. Once she was married to Morris she re-invented herself, learning french and italian and learning to play the piano. Jane was also responsible for the beautiful embroidery hanging in the dining room:

One of the embroideries from the dining room

Detail of embroidery

Window seat in the bedroom

Front door designed by William Morris

Front door detail showing painted glass

Luscious Lampshades


While in London, I had a lovely autumnal day in Greenwich, walking through the park from the top of Blackheath where I took this photo looking down toward the river (Canary Wharf in the background). As you can see the stands from the recent Olympics were still there and the Royal Naval College just behind.

Greenwich Park, looking down to Naval College

Greenwich has a great art and craft market which I enjoyed wandering around. There are also some interesting and quirky shops one of which you might like to visit here: lushdesigns which you can see below had some wonderful screen-printed lamp-shades and other home items – hope you like them as much as I did!

Gorgeous lampshades from lushdesigns

Danson House, Kent


I am always amazed how we can live for so many years in one place, oblivious to what is on our doorstep. This was very evident to me on my recent UK trip. I grew up just a few miles away from Danson Park in Bexleyheath, Kent and always enjoyed visits there as a child as it was a great place for a picnic or feeding the ducks on the lake or even hiring a rowing boat on a couple of occasions. I went to firework shows there on winter nights and to visiting fair grounds as a teenager. The most fascinating thing about Danson Park, however, was the large house on the highest point in the middle of the park. It was dilapidated even when I was a child and I remember the only bit that was open was a back door where you could buy ice-creams and drinks in the summer.

It was closed up completely by the 1970’s and basically left to crumble. Every time I saw it, I couldn’t help wonder about its history and what it would have looked like in its heyday.

Fast forward to 2012 and I finally got to have a look around this magnificent house that has been lovingly brought back to life and restored to its former glory by English Heritage. In 1995 it was deemed ‘the most significant building at risk in London’ and after 10 years of restoration they opened the doors to the public in 2005.

I certainly wasn’t disappointed and would urge anyone in the area to try and get there for a visit as it is a beautiful example of Palladian architecture and gives you a lovely glimpse of Georgian life (for the wealthy of course)! The original building was completed in 1766 by Sir Robert Taylor for wealthy sugar merchant Sir John Boyd.

Danson House

Unfortunately I can’t get the aroma that goes with the picture but take my word for it, the smell of home baked cakes wafting through the house was too much to resist!

Beautiful home baked cakes

On the second floor there was an art installation (I think called Yellow Dress) which is there until 29th October 2012. The artist is Tom Gallant who has designed wallpaper (Iris) which was inspired by an 1892 novella called the Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Here is a close-up of the wallpaper:

Following on from this theme was the yellow dress (Dress 09) which is a laser cut black dress by fashion designer Marios Schwab and artist Tom Gallant. It was really very beautiful and what looks like a shadow was actually stencilled onto floor and wall.

Dress 09

Finally there was a display on the walls by Fiona Curran called A Delicious Garden (2011) which was magnified 18th century floral patterns of icing sugar climbing up the walls of one room:

A Delicious Garden – Fiona Curran

Detail of A Delicious Garden